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Renovation uncovers piece of Bradenton's segregationist past

BRADENTON — Workers uncovered a remnant of the city’s segregationist past Monday during the renovation of a building in the Singletary Estates neighborhood.

As a crew was pressure washing the outside walls of a building at the corner of Third Street West and 10th Avenue West, indications of painted lettering of a sign began to appear as the old paint flicked away.

Above the corner doorway were black letters indicating the building was the location of “Our Community Laundry.”

And that it was for “colored only.”

The revelation of the restriction was news to Rosie Mae Mitchell, who was born in the neighborhood 87 years ago next week, and lives only three blocks away.

“I never gave it any attention,” Mitchell said of the “colored only” sign as she sat in the front room of the house where she and her husband raised their family. “We were the only people who went there.”

The sign is unusual because during segregation, such signs at lunch counters, bus station waiting rooms and restrooms would be designated “whites only.”

“Before integration, it was kind of rough,” said Bill Lowe, 74, who grew up in the neighborhood. “But it was not really bad where we lived because everybody took care of one another.”

Lowe is the father of Palmetto Police Chief Garry Lowe, whose wife, Paula, purchased the building and is having it renovated into apartments named after her father-in-law, William Arms Apartments.

The building was originally a self-serve laundry and later a sandwich shop.

“A man we called Tally Joe and his wife ran it,” Mitchell said. “They were Italian and always nice.”

Tally Joe was Sam Anaclerio, who purchased the property around 1949 and built the laundry, according to his son, Leroy Anaclerio.

Leroy Anaclerio said his father and mother, Margie, ran the laundry for about five years when people in the neighborhood would say to his parents that they had nowhere in the community to eat.

“My father didn’t have any experience in the restaurant business,” Leroy Anaclerio said, “but he said he’d try it.”

Sam Anaclerio split the building in two: the sandwich shop with a counter and stools in front and the laundry in the back.

Within a short while, his father found the restaurant was more popular than the laundry, so he closed the laundry and put in tables for the restaurant.

But carryout was the most popular, Leroy Anaclerio said. The faded lettering on the wall next to the door has a silhouette of an old-style black telephone and the words “Take Out.”

“It was a lot of fun,” he said of the days when he and his brother, Eugene, would help their parents at the sandwich shop. “The folks in the neighborhood really respected my dad.”

Leroy Anaclerio said the “colored only” sign was not there as a slur, but to let the neighborhood know it was their place.

The retired Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy now lives in Tennessee with his family, but remembers the good relationships he built with those in the neighborhood.

Bill Lowe said he remembers Tally Joe’s place as a good place to eat.

Over the doorway, in faint red lettering, mixed with the black letters, one can make out “Cuban Sandwiches” with “A Specialty” below.

“We would go there for French fries, a soda and a sandwich,” Bill Lowe said, reminiscing about growing up during the years when segregation laws were in effect.

“We couldn’t get served at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown,” he said. “And if you ordered a sandwich from Sharp’s Drug Store Luncheonette, you had to pick it up at the back door.”

Mitchell said that was a different time for blacks in Bradenton, but things are different now.

“You go and do what you want to do now,” she said.

With several workers slathering fresh stucco onto the walls, the signs will soon be covered and resigned to only memories.

“I didn’t pay any attention to it,” said James Richardson, who was the only one of the three black workers doing the stucco work old enough to have experienced segregation.

The other two, Tony Washington and Michael Hatcher, only know of the struggles of black Americans through history books. “That’s how people came up,” said Washington, as he handed up a bucket of wet stucco to Richardson that would soon be used to cover the old signs.

Carl Mario Nudi, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-7027.

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